Pulp Fiction, the typography of thrills and chills

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Though well before my time, I absolutely love the graphic tradition of pulp fiction novels. Apparently, they drew their nick-name from the cheap paper they were printed on, always intended to be low-cost, high-thrill, mass entertainment.

Spanning the 20's to the 50's in their pure, original form, their cover illustrations were as sensational as the stories inside , but I would argue that it was the cover typography that imbued much of the tension and thrill these covers seem to be charged with. The type wobbled and vibrated, exploded and arched, it was vibrant and colourful and aggressive. The choice of words didn't hurt either - "Tension, Jolting, Amazing, Crime, Phantom, Death...". EC (Entertainment Comics) was one of the leaders in this edgy fare (see above), who specialized in shocking, unexpected endings . EC would continue to push harder and harder (graphic in more ways than one) until censorship pressures forced them to finally shift their focus to humour comics instead. They then went on to create MAD Magazine, that has become an American icon -  I read monthly as a kid.

Exciting and often sexy, the pulps' subjects spanned every genre from crime to sci-fi, science to the occult, chilling accidents to freaks of nature, and the design, illustration and typography of their covers is pure, seductive, visual entertainment.  Unlike many of its competitors, EC would proudly publicize its artists who were all widely respected at the time, and encouraged them to push the boundaries. The result is a body of graphic design work with amazingly unique, and high-impact lettering design. Time to head over to eBay... I'm inspired!

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